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Harvesting And Handling Muscadine Grapes

The Muscadine grapes of the South Atlantic and Gulf states are unique
in vine and fruit, are used for different purposes and go to different
markets from the grapes of the North, so that they may be considered
almost a distinct fruit. Not only are cultural requirements peculiar
to this fruit, as we have seen, but the methods of harvesting and
marketing are quite distinct. These are well set forth by Husmann and
Dearing[18] as follows:

"Rotundifolia vines have been almost entirely grown on overhead arbors
in the past, the fruit being made into wine, and under such conditions
the general practice of jarring the grapes from the vines is perhaps
the most practical method of harvesting. If the vines are trained to
upright trellises or if the fruit is intended for shipping or table
use the grapes should be picked by hand in order to be sound and
clean. On account of the presence of leaves, twigs, etc., mixed with
the grapes jarred from the vines, wine and grape-juice manufacturers
will pay 5 to 15 cents a bushel more for hand-picked grapes. The
growers who make a practice of hand picking claim that the work can be
done at practically no greater expense than is necessary to shake off
and clean a crop, and the increased price obtained for the fruit will
more than pay the difference.

"A description of the harvesting of the Rotundifolia grapes by the
jarring method will be interesting to those not familiar with it.
Poles are attached to sheets of canvas measuring 6 by 12 feet and
having leather handles. A man is placed at each end of the sheets and
four men with two sheets work together. The wide sides of the two
sheets are brought close together under each vine, with the trunk of
the vine in the middle. The vines are then jarred, the berries falling
into the sheets. Those not caught by the sheets or that have fallen to
the ground by the shaking of the trellis when the fruit of the
adjoining vines was harvested, etc., and which are usually of the best
quality, are picked by hand. The writers are informed that it costs
approximately 15 cents a bushel to harvest the fruit on the ground and
12 cents to harvest that which falls on the sheets.

"The fruit is put in boxes or barrels, and if the quantity is not
large the leaves, sticks, etc., which become mixed with the fruit are
removed by hand. If there is a considerable quantity of fruit some
mechanical means, such as ordinary grain fan mills, are used to clean
it. After cleaning, the fruit is hauled or shipped to the winery. In
wineries with modern equipment there are blowers which thoroughly
clean the fruit. These are located near the end of the elevators that
carry the fruit to the crusher.

"A common and very objectionable practice followed in harvesting
Rotundifolia grapes, especially by the jarring method, is that of
gathering the fruit all at once, whereas there should be at least
three periods of harvesting. When harvested at one time the best
quality of fruit ripens, falls to the ground, and is lost before the
harvest is commenced and the last part of the crop is thrashed from
the vines in a half-ripe condition along with the ripe fruit. In this
manner not only is the first and best fruit entirely lost, but the
harvested fruit is inferior in quality, which necessarily results in a
poor product from the entire yield."

Returns from Muscadine grapes.

"Great variations occur in the yields from Rotundifolia vines. At
times there are record-breaking yields and, again, small yields are
reported, the small yields resulting from black-rot, coulure, wet
weather, self-sterility, lack of cultivation, fertilization, lack of
pruning, age of vines, and various other causes. In spite of this,
Rotundifolia vines are said to be among the safest and most prolific
of fruit-bearing plants. While in one of the largest Rotundifolia
vineyards there has been only a partial crop during the last three
years, owing to various causes, another grower reports a yield of 177
bushels of grapes from 4-year-old James vines, in addition to a bale
of cotton to the acre. A Florida grower estimated his crop of white
Rotundifolia and Thomas grapes for the season of 1911 at 280 bushels
to the acre. An average yield of 27 bushels an acre from 4-year-old
vines, 100 bushels from 5-year-old vines, and 150 bushels to the acre
when the vines are in full bearing should be obtained.

"The prices paid for Rotundifolia grapes depend on the season, the
quality of fruit, and the market. In years when the crop is short
better prices are usually paid than when there is a heavy crop. Aside
from the grapes sold and shipped to wineries, grapes as a rule sell
for more in the cities and larger towns than in smaller places, the
local demand being somewhat in proportion to the population. In such
localities fruit of good quality will bring a much better price than
inferior fruit. Hand-picked fruit in half-bushel peach baskets or in
berry boxes usually brings from $1 to $2 per bushel. Grapes harvested
by jarring are usually sent to the wineries and bring an average of 75
cents per bushel of 60 pounds. The highest price paid for this quality
of fruit was reached in 1910, when $2.25 per bushel (f.o.b. shipping
point) was paid for white Rotundifolia.

"In many localities certain growers have built up quite a reputation
for themselves in choice, hand-picked fruit, which they ship to
special customers in distant markets. For this purpose the James
variety is usually grown because the berries adhere well and are of
good size and flavor. Several growers ship as far north as New York
and Boston, getting from $2.00 to $2.50 gross per bushel crate. In
shipping, three styles of carriers are used--the 24-box strawberry
crate, the 6-basket peach crate, and the 8-pound basket. More
attention should be given to this phase of the industry. The varieties
best suited for shipping are the James, Memory, Flowers, and Mish.

"In the fall of 1910 shipments of the James, Thomas, and Eden
varieties were sent from the Rotundifolia experiment vineyard at
Willard, N. C., to Washington D. C., part of the consignment being in
strawberry boxes and the remainder in bushel baskets. No important
difference could be noted in the two lots on their arrival in
Washington. The James variety arrived in perfect condition in both
packages; of the Eden 30 per cent and of the Thomas 35 per cent had
shelled. More extensive experiments along this line are contemplated."

Next: Handling The Grape In California

Previous: Harvesting In The East And North

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